Commission throws support behind RiverHawks baseball

Team could relocate squad in time for opening day 2014

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COEUR d'ALENE - The city of Coeur d'Alene Parks and Recreation Commission is ready to say yes to RiverHawks baseball.

After meeting with representatives of the collegiate summer league team Tuesday, the commission said it would be willing to support the idea of relocating the squad to Coeur d'Alene in time for opening day 2014.

"I say absolutely," said Mike Kennedy, City Councilman and liaison to the parks and recreation commission, the advisory panel that will vote on endorsing the partnership during its Monday meeting. "I'm a big supporter."

The summer league team from Spokane would be the anchor tenant of the estimated $2.7 million baseball field at Cherry Hill Park. Fundraising to pay for the project has begun. Tuesday's workshop was to see if the city, which would own the stadium if it's built, would officially support teaming up with the ball club.

The RiverHawks have eyed moving to Coeur d'Alene for years.

Originally from Spokane, they haven't played a game in years because they can't get a home field in the Lilac City. They also didn't receive much media coverage in the bigger city with more sporting options for the public, and the team couldn't compete financially with bigger franchises like the Spokane Indians.

Coeur d'Alene would be a perfect fit, RiverHawks representatives said, as similar sized markets such as Walla Walla and Wenatchee Wash., have proven successful homes for the wooden-bat summer league.

"That was our intent all along," said Irv Zakheim, RiverHawks owner, on moving to Coeur d'Alene. "Coeur d'Alene fits the kind (of town) that does very well."

The RiverHawks would lease the stadium from the city. The ball club would keep around three employees at the stadium year round, but it would primarily take up around 30 summer evenings for games. What the terms of a lease would be, how maintenance would be split, and who would cover the utility bill, would have to be worked out down the line.

The topic will go before the commission at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Community Room of the Coeur d'Alene Public Library.

If parks and recreation supports landing the RiverHawks in Coeur d'Alene, the issue would go to another advisory panel, the General Services Committee, then to the City Council in three weeks for adoption.

Having the city's official support should make fundraising easier, said Ron Ouren, baseball stadium fundraising chairman.

"That really excites them," he said of potential donors. "It really makes a big difference."

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